Cairo: Egyptian authorities have unveiled a plan to tighten security around the Giza Pyramids south west of Cairo, days after local persons were seen in an online video illegally selling blocks of the monuments.
Officials from the ministries of antiquities and culture as well as the army made an inspection tour of the area on Wednesday ahead of setting the plan into motion. Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Al Damati, who joined the tour, said that an army-owned company has been tasked with carrying out development works on the world-famed site.
These works include building more gates, security watch towers and new roads, as well as expanding the lighting service to cover the desert hinterland of the site, according to Al Damati.
“Police guarding the area will get 10 suburban utility vehicles to boost security. In addition, ID cards will be issued for camels, horses, their drivers and vendors in the archaeological area.”
Al Damati added in media remarks that an original plan to develop the area started in 2008, but was suspended three years later due to the unrest that rocked Egypt following the 2011 uprising that deposed long-time president Hosni Mubarak.
A hotline will be set up to receive complaints from the Pyramids area’s visitors, according to Al Damati, who did not say when the new plan will begin or how much it will cost.
Earlier this week, three horsemen were arrested after they appeared in an online video, secretly shot by undercover reporters of the private Egyptian news site Dotmsr selling them stones from around the Menkaure Pyramid, the smallest of the three Giza Pyramids, for 250 Egyptian pounds (Dh89).
In the video, which went viral on social media, one of the suspects reassures the fake clients that they would leave the site with the stones without getting caught.
The three suspects face charges of vandalism, illegal trade and fraud.
The footage has brought security and antiquity officials under scathing criticism for allegedly lax regulations. The Great Pyramid is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The 4,500-year-old massive structures used to attract millions of visitors from around the world. But the number has dwindled since the 2011 uprising, as Egypt’s tourism, a main income source for the country, has felt the pinch of the turmoil.